What’s an authorizing resolution? An escape valve that’s run out of steam

June 4, 2012

Since 1976 (the second short session) the adjournment resolution of the odd-year North Carolina General Assembly has limited the subjects that can be considered in the even numbered year, but always with the same escape valve: “Any matter authorized by joint resolution passed by a two-thirds majority of the members of the House of Representatives present and voting and by a two-thirds majority of the members of the Senate present and voting.”  This is called in legislative parlance an “authorizing resolution”

For the 1976 short session matters allowed in by passage of such a resolution plus any bill directly affecting the budget were the only items authorized to be considered.  Now, other categories such as bills that had passed one house in the off-year, been recommended by a study, or noncontroversial local bills take up most of the non-budgetary work of the even-year short session.

In fact, since 1999 there have only been two authorizing resolutions passed by the requisite 2/3 vote, down from the common 30 resolutions ratified in many of the short sessions from 1984-1992.  Here’s a count of ratified authorizing resolutions for each short session:

1976   4

1978  22

1980  10

1982 23

1984 38

1986 19

1988 11

1990 30

1992 37

1994 5

1996 7

1998 2

2000 0

2002 1

2004 0

2006 1

2008 0

2010 0

2012 0 (to date)

Why such the sharp drop in authorizing resolutions between 1992 and 1994, and their becoming a nonfactor after that? There’s not even any lore about it. Marc Basnight did become Senate President Pro Tem in 1993 holding that office through 2010, but that may have just been a coincidence.